Thursday, April 24, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Respect the Foreskin

When my wife and I decided to start trying to have a child, one thing was abundantly clear in my eyes - if we had a son, he would be circumcised.  This wasn't based on any type of science or peer researched studies, just the fact that I was circumcised as were all the males in my family.  My wife was staunchly opposed to this and it was a point of contention amongst us for some time.  We weren't pregnant though so there was no need to worry about it...for now.  Plus, there was a chance we would have a girl and this would be a moot point.  Fast forward a couple months and we were pregnant.  Fast forward a couple more and we knew it was a boy...uh oh.

My wife and I had some arguments about it with the worst occurring after a pediatrician interview in which the nurse practitioner basically told my wife she was overreacting and the entire procedure was painless and the babies sometimes didn't even cry.  "See!" I said, "the doctor is even saying it's not bad.  Plus, you're not a guy, you couldn't understand why I want him to match!"  Apparently that wasn't the correct thing to say and we spent the remainder of the ride home in an awkward silence. 

Following that visit, I decided to do some research of my own.  My initial thoughts on the matter were the following
  1. I am circumcised, so my son should match his father
  2. Circumcised penises are cleaner and easier to clean
  3. A child left intact would be made fun of in some future locker room scenario in my head
With those couple thoughts, I began searching and immediately found that I was absolutely not alone in my quest for information on the foreskin.

One of the first things I noticed was a lot of talk pertaining to circumcision preventing urinary tract infections and actually helping to reduce the spread of HIV.  "Wonderful!" I thought, this is exactly what I was looking for.  Upon further review though it was shown that any positive benefit was null and void with proper cleaning of the penis.  If you teach your son to clean himself properly, the benefits are practically gone.  Plus, cleaning a penis isn't rocket science and proper hygiene is something every parent is going to teach their child (hopefully.)

My other thoughts about my son being made fun of in the locker room were also quickly squashed as I noticed a decrease in circumcision rates across the US.  Dr. Sears states on his website pertaining to circumcision that by the time a child born now is old enough to be in the stereotypical gym room/locker room scenario that half of the boys will be circumcised while the other half will not.  It won't be as polarizing a topic as it was when I was in high school when most parents had their child cut in the 80's.  Ok, well, that's another fear down the drain.  It is starting to look like the US is catching up with the sentiments many parents outside of the US have when it comes to circumcision - being left intact is the way to go.

% of newborns being circumcised in US from

Finally, I was left with the biggest and probably the most selfish reason, I want my son to match me.  When asked about it by my wife I couldn't really put it into words.  No, I wouldn't stand next to my son one day and compare my penis with his in a mirror and say, "Yep, good thing we match!"  The urge to have my son match me most likely stems from some psychological notion of dominance and claiming territory.  "This child is mine because we match!" When confronted with the issues that could arise due to a botched circumcision and the studies currently underway on sensitivity of the foreskin in relation to sexual enjoyment plus thrown in with the pain my son would go through just days after being born, I couldn't do it.  My wants were foolish in the grand scheme of things and selfish at best.  After holding my son for the first time in that delivery room, I knew that even if I had wanted to coming into the hospital, my feelings would have immediately changed after holding this precious and absolutely perfect baby in my hands. 

There is no concrete evidence of the benefit of circumcision that isn't debunked with proper hygiene or overshadowed by doubts in the medical community.  This isn't something like vaccines where it's generally accepted across the world by medical practitioners that the benefits outweigh any small discomfort the child may have.  The medical community constantly switches its stance on the the benefits of circumcision and in the end say it's a personal choice the parents need to make on their own.  You'll see a lot of parents that go strictly from the aesthetic approach.  "Uncircumcised penises look weird" or "We want him to match his father."  I can understand this, but I don't approve, at least not anymore.  In the end, I do agree it's a personal choice, but make sure you do your research and know what your child will be undergoing.  Watch a child having the procedure done - it's not a happy joyous occasion, it's actually quite sad.  If you're religious and it's part of your religious doctrine to have it done, go for it.  I'm a godless heathen but I respect that people have a set of beliefs that they stick to and you can't cherry pick what you want to follow.  If you truly believe that god demands the foreskin of your child, have at it, but make sure you understand the procedure and don't let some ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbi put his mouth on your child's penis - that's not going to end well and it's really freaking creepy.

Do your research and make sure you understand the procedure.  There are a number of resources out there such as Intact America, NOCIRC, and Mothers Against Circumcision that offer the alternative view to pop culture.  Read up, watch the procedure being done, and learn as much as you can.  That way, if anyone asks why you did or didn't have it done, you'll be able to answer truthfully and with the knowledge that you made the right decision for your family.  If you want to watch a really informative video on the whole circumcision business, feel free to check out the video below.  Penn and Teller, on their former Showtime series "Bullshit", covered the topic of circumcision and make some really good points.  It's definitely worth watching if you need to make an important decision for someone being born.


  1. My wife and I struggled with this a bit too (we have two boys, and I'm cut). Ultimately, it came down to three major points:

    -I don't condone unnecessary surgeries for my children (and anyone who says it isn't surgery is kidding themself or ignorant of the definition);

    -There is some evidence that sex with a foreskin is more pleasurable than it is without. I obvious can't compare the two myself, but I would like to err on the side of caution; and

    -HAVE YOU SEEN A DIAGRAM OF WHAT THEY DO??? W....T....F. Whole lotta nope.

    Good for you for looking into it and making an educated decision instead of just going with your gut feeling on the issue.

    1. I've actually watched videos of it being done on youtube and just about freaked out. Ignorance is bliss for a lot of fathers and if they knew what was going to happen to their bright eyed newborn boy I doubt they would want it to happen. Thanks for reading!

  2. Thank you for standing up for the physicals integrity of your son. Hopefully more people will question the validity of this "tradition" in a civilized society.

    After a tradition of genital cutting becomes established and later permeates some societies to the point that it becomes normalized - they simply cannot even see the wood for the trees anymore. They have no choice but to cling to the deeply rooted beliefs that it has benefited them somehow or that there must be a good reason for it. Or come face to face with an ugly and uncomfortable truth - that it is just a mindless habit.

    Somewhere during its evolution it was hijacked, renamed and re-branded by medical professionals for profit. Perhaps the lack of personal experience with this part of their body has resulted in them perceiving its removal more valuable than its preservation. This "medical" form of genital cutting is now being aggressively funded and exported to other countries.

    Easier to point fingers at other cultures that practice it for similar beliefs. "At least the way we harm our children is more civilized and humane than the way they do it over there. Our reasons for doing it is much more valid than theirs. The healthy tissue we remove without personal consent is different from the tissue they remove without consent."

    Cultural conditioning. Generation after generation desperately tries to find ways to justify this habit, and then gift-wrap it as some strange form of "preventative medicine" (specific to the genitals). Simply blinding themselves and others to the obvious violation of human and personal rights and unethical practices.

    We don't evaluate "health benefits", "scientific evidence" or "parental rights" regarding genital cutting for our infant daughters. Nope... common sense prevails. We don't remove other healthy body part to prevent future issues or to make the body easier to clean. Why different standards for genitals? Why would the rules change for our sons?

    1. You hit a good point I didn't touch on in my article. When I tried to find research on why it should be done, everything was either cleanliness, looking the same as others (really? how is that a reason?) and "preventative surgery." The kid MIGHT have a UTI or MIGHT have unprotected sex or MIGHT have penile cancer or whatever else they say it might prevent so you should do this now to just be safe. I always find it funny that the physicians never outright say, 'Yes, you should do this." In the end they just say, "In our opinion the pros outweigh the cons and it should be a parental decision." Vaccines, well baby visits, etc. are all thought of as necessary but this isn't and parents still do it.

  3. Bravo! You are to be congratulated for rising above your own (very common) insecurities and breaking the chain of inflicting them on the next generation. No boy ever said "I want to look like daddy! Cut mine too!"

    In your reason #2 I think you may have meant "circumcised" but it is correct as written, You need to know that a baby's foreskin is fused to the glans for years, and attempts to "clean inside" are misguided and can cause the very infections they are intended to prevent (resulting in many of the "necessary" circumcisions you will be warned against). In the USA you have to keep an eagle eye on doctors, nurses and grandparents, ready even to smack their hands away if they make as if to retract. It will retract by itself when it is good and ready (sometimes not until puberty) and your son is the best person to know when that is.

    But there is another step after "making the right decision for your family." As one man said, but more colourfully, "My family doesn't [urinate] with my [penis], my family doesn't [masturbate] with my [penis] and my family doesn't [have sexual intercourse] with my [penis], so what business did my family have to go cutting part OFF of my [penis]?"

    Human rights. Whose body is it? It isn't even legal to cut any other normal, healthy, functional, non-renewing part off a baby boy. It's not legal to tattoo a child (a Fresno, CA, man did time for that). It's not legal to pierce a child's genitals. It's not legal to circumcise a man without his consent. It's not even legal to circumcise a domestic pet. And it's not legal to cut any part at all off a baby girl's genitals (let alone what they do in Africa). So why is an infant, human baby male foreskin alone subject to removal at parental whim?

    "If you're religious and it's part of your religious doctrine to have it done, go for it. I'm a godless heathen but I respect that people have a set of beliefs that they stick to and you can't cherry pick what you want to follow. If you truly believe that god demands the foreskin of your child, have at it,"
    You said "child" In Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, millions of people truly believe that Allah demands the prepuces of their daughters (at the hands of a surgeon). I hope you agree that's not OK. A child of either sex may grow up to repudiate their parents' religion, and while none I know of excludes circumcised people, Sikhism for one values intactness, not even cutting the hair. A circumcised convert to Sikhism might feel he could never be a true Sikh. An intact Muslim or Jew can make himself right with his religion at any time (but more and more are embracing their religion and putting genital cutting behind them: See )

    A close reading of the American constitution (Amendments 1, freedom of religion, 4, security of the person, and 14 equality), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and common law all suggest that infant male genital cutting is a violation, and already implicitly outlawed. It is only the historical and cultural baggage it carries that keeps it "legal".

    If you accept that argument, you've taken the next step to becoming an Intactivist.

    1. Thanks for the comment, and you're right, I meant Circumcision in number 2 and corrected it.

      The religious comment I made was more from the standpoint of that it's impossible to argue with religious doctrine. I've tried. It doesn't matter what you say - tradition is tradition and things need to be done. I think it's foolish, especially in modern times to use traditions from thousands of years ago but to change it's going to take believers in the religion saying, "No, we don't stand for this!" I would love to see a day when that happened and people put logic in front of superstition but until that time, things will remain the same. Thanks so much for reading and really thought out comment! Love seeing others out there who share my point of view on circumcision, even if I'm new to the cause, I do believe in it strongly. Sometimes is takes your own son to be born and you doing the research yourself to really see it for the farce that it is.

  4. It's been a while since you posted this, but I just want you to know that it's still helping (at least this) dad-to-be. Your post helped me realize my biggest justification (because I am) sounds pretty ridiculous when you hear someone else say it...

    1. Thanks for commenting. That really means a lot to hear it's helping, thank you. And don't feel dumb because you have that thought in your head. I was there too and my wife and I got into some very heated debates over it. My son wasn't circumcised and he is turning 2 in a week and we have had 0 issues and I haven't regretted not doing it once. In fact, I'm proud I didn't. I wish you and your wife the best and keep researching if you still feel a little uneasy. That's ok, whatever you decide on though, do it as a family and try to have both parents on board. Good luck!